In late May, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) received Heterodox Academy’s Award for Institutional Excellence during 2019 Heterodox Academy Conference in New York City. The reward is given to a single higher education institution that has best advanced “open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement” on its campus, according to the organization’s website.
Heterodox Academy is a non-partisan association of more than 2,500 college professors, administrators, and graduate students founded in 2015 by professors Jonathan Haidt of New York University and Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz of Georgetown University in order to combat the narrowing of political viewpoints on college campuses.
Heterodox Academy noted that like many other elite private colleges across the United States during the 2014-15 school year, Claremont McKenna endured multiple high-profile student demonstrations over accusations of institutional racism and sexism on campus.
The largest incident at Claremont McKenna occurred when Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute was scheduled to speak at the college’s Athenaeum to critique the Black Lives Matter movement. When protestors from CMC other colleges in the Claremont Colleges consortium—which includes Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Pitzer Colleges—began blocking entrances and harassing students attempting to attend the event, the talk was shut down. MacDonald’s speech was later recorded and posted online.
Unlike other colleges, Heterodox Academy notes that Claremont McKenna College refused to bow down to the authoritarian demands of the activists on campus. Instead, it launched the Open Academy initiative in November 2018.
The initiative allocates an astounding $20 million over ten years to promote viewpoint diversity, freedom of expression, and effective dialogue on campus. Additionally, CMC has continued to support its Athenaeum speaker series, which invites over a hundred speakers annually to discuss a wide range of topics.
Aaryaman Sheoran, a rising senior at CMC, told the Independent that “CMC is way more prepared to host diverse opinions than we were two years ago, but there is still work to be done. The discussion around getting Arthur Brooks [the former president of American Enterprise Institute] to speak at commencement and CMC’s reception to his speech was excellent, but we need more open feedback and clear discussions about free speech and it’s place on college campuses.”
With this award, CMC is leading acadamnia in preserving the values of Heterodox Academy; it remains to be seen whether the rest of the Claremont Colleges follow suit.
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